Tea with Diana Henry

Eggs On The Roof Reviews

Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry

Pub­lished by Mitchell Beazley

Septem­ber 2012 - £20.00

The worst party invit­a­tion I’ve ever been sent said: ‘Come to a Pimm’s Party in Regent’s Park. Please bring Pimm’s, cucum­ber and lem­on­ade. We will provide ice and paper cups.’ It was alien in every way to the invit­a­tion I’ve just received to have tea at food writer Diana Henry’s house. I now under­stand the true mean­ing of the phrase ‘what a spread’. Diana’s exquis­ite tea staged a pro­pri­et­or­ial land-grab for the table, spread­ing from north to south and east to west. Now I come to think of it, I have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the phrase ‘High tea’ too. Diana’s tea was lofty in all the best ways — gen­er­ous in spirit, high on cal­or­ies and monu­mental in scale. I was torn between pho­to­graph­ing my tea and tuck­ing in to it, but as you can see, good man­ners pre­vailed and I cap­tured it on cam­era first.

The tea, to mark the pub­lic­a­tion of Diana’s new book on pre­serving and cur­ing, Salt Sugar Smoke, fea­tured many of her new recipes: per­fumed fig and pomegranate jam, home-cured gravad­lax, an exquis­ite crispy salad of apples and onions mar­in­ated in rice wine vin­egar, pas­sion fruit curd sponge cake and white­cur­rant jelly.

Many books on pre­serving are too hearty and briskly effi­cient for my taste. I like a little poetry with my pec­tin and Diana Henry provides it. Salt Sugar Smoke com­bines both supreme prac­tic­al­ity with a cre­at­ive ima­gin­a­tion — rather like Diana Henry her­self. This is a book that will teach you how to get the per­fect set on your jam, while remind­ing you of Simone de Beauvoir’s won­der­ful evoc­a­tion of the art of jam-making: ‘…the house­wife has caught dur­a­tion in the snare of sugar, she has enclosed life in jars.’

I left Diana’s house with chubby cheeks and a grin. Not only had I eaten one of the best teas of my life, I’d had one of Diana’s cheer­ing pep talks about life and jam. This woman and her books should be made avail­able on the NHS.